Eddie Compass sets the record straight, he didn't quit
One of the most recognized faces during the turmoil of Katrina has spent years out of the spotlight. Former police chief Eddie Compass resigned just weeks after the storm. A decade later, he wants to set the record straight, he didn't quit.
Ten years ago he lead the NOPD during Katrina, in the middle of a storm professionally and personally. He resigned as chief on September 27, 2005. He claims former mayor Ray Nagin forced him out.
"I'm going to tell you I had to sort out Katrina. I was angry. I busted my butt and I was being vilified. Things were said about me were not true," he said.
Compass blames the mayor for tainting a record he'd spent a lifetime building.
"He destroyed my career and I have to live with that, but God puts you in a place you need to be," he said.
He entered the police academy at age 20, in 1979.
The kid from the 6th ward and St. Augustine grad had a laser focus on what he wanted in life.
"I dreamed of being the chief. When we were in the Police Academy they asked me my aspirations and I am the only one who stood up and said Chief of Police.
Compass went from patrolman to captain in a six year period.
When the position of chief under the Nagin Administration opened up Compass said Nagin wanted him for the number two job. But leadership as a street cop and job offers elsewhere propelled him to the top spot in New Orleans.
"From the first month I became chief, me and Ray Nagin bumped heads," he said.
Compass says the disagreements continued. Katrina's landfall brought the rift to a head.
"When the city started flooding and we started realizing that a lot of people hadn't left their homes and we had to go rescue them that's when I realized it was serious," he said.
Compass was at the dome with other first responders keeping order amidst thousands of evacuees. He went up in helicopters to help identify landmarks during the rescue missions. He says communication with the mayor was difficult.
"He was on the 27th floor of the Hyatt. Terry Ebbert Marlon Defillo, Jackie Clarkson and I had to walk up the stairs just to talk to him because he wouldn't come down. He didn't want people to know that," he said.
"He made me a spokesman for the city. That's a role I didn't want to do."
Compass was accused of giving conflicting information about crime and what was happening during the storm. David Benelli was an NOPD lieutenant and president of PANO at the time.
"He was giving out conflicting information because the information was conflicting. You had no communication whatsoever," Benelli said.
The losses got personal. Almost a week after the flooding on September 3, 2005 NOPD Public Information officer Paul Accardo committed suicide. Compass said the mayor criticized him for shedding tears,"
"He first sent me an email and said I embarrassed the city because I cried. I looked like I was out of control. He wanted me to give him a 30 to 60 day exit plan."
Benelli said the mayor told Compass that if you don't resign, I'll make it difficult for the men and women of the department.
"The mindset of the chief at the time was falling on the sword for his people," Benelli said.
Compass said Ray Nagin gave the impression he was breaking down every five minutes.
Resignation seemed the only option.
"If Chief Compass had one big fault it's that he gave a damn about his people and it hurt him personally that his people hurting," Benelli said.
Compass had tears in his eyes as he thought about the career.
"I loved the police department so much, when I lost it I lost a part of me. I'm never going to love anything like that again."